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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Heifer International, whose proven sustainable solution to poverty has helped 12 million families in countries around the world lift themselves to self-reliance, applauds former President Clinton’s call urging aid groups to help Haiti become self-sufficient.
“Helping people help themselves has been Heifer International’s model for more than 65 years,” said Charles O. Stewart, interim chief executive officer. “We have found that if you partner with people and give them the tools, the training, the chance to be in the center of their own rebuilding and rehabilitation, they exceed hopes at every time.”
For Heifer, the tools are community organization and empowerment and the living gifts of livestock, seeds and trees, and the techniques are sustainable farming practices—planting trees, using natural fertilizer, zero- or managed grazing techniques, contour planting and terracing to prevent soil erosion, a critical issue in Haiti.
Last week, President Clinton, the United Nations’ special envoy to Haiti, urged aid groups serving Haiti’s earthquake-ravaged communities to help rebuild the country’s government and infrastructure with the intent to make Haiti self-sustainable.
“That should be the goal of all nonprofits and aid organizations,” said Stewart. “Provide appropriate aid and rehabilitation in the wake of a war or natural disaster; empower and enable the people of the country with whatever best fits the need, and then plan your exit, moving on to another community or country in need of a hand up, not a handout.”
Clinton issued his call ahead of a critical U.N. donor’s conference at which Haitian officials are expected to ask for $11.5 billion to rebuild the country.
Heifer has worked in Haiti for more than 10 years, and prior to the January earthquake was working with 16,000 project partner families around the small island nation. Recently, a team from the international headquarters traveled to Haiti to work with in-country staff and to meet with current and potential partners to plan Heifer’s rehabilitation and restoration efforts.
Initially, Heifer will work with its current partner families, but the goal is to leverage funds that donors provided for disaster relief—as well as funds that will be requested from the Clinton-Bush Haiti recovery fund—to help even more families. The plan will reflect Heifer’s traditional sustainable development model.
“We will work with families in Haiti the same way we do everywhere, providing geographically appropriate animals and crops, working with Haiti communities, organizations and government with the stated purpose of helping people to help themselves—getting to a point where we hand off to Haitians who will continue the process after we leave,” said Stewart.
Given the destruction and the need, Heifer expects to be working in Haiti for some years to come, but one day—if people follow President Clinton’s advice, says Stewart—Haiti will be able to sustain itself and meet the needs of its people.
“Timing is critical,” said Stewart. “The people need help now, and they are more than willing and able to help themselves, if we—the aid agencies—support them, teach them, train them, invest them in their own future.
“With help, they can, and will, rebuild their own communities, their infrastructure, their country.”